Canadian Thistle: The Mythical, Cancerous, Post-Apocalyptic, Iceberg-ish, Villain of the Weed World.

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Welcome back to the Wonderful World of Weed Man!  Last week we finished up our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There!’ series.  I hope you enjoyed it and found it to an informative series.  Although our blog will not always consist of subject series, it will have many.  Before we get into our next series in a few weeks, I wanted to touch on some common concerns our customers are currently seeing right now. This week we will talk about Canadian Thistle!

If you have never had the displeasure of thistle in your yard, you have won the lawn lottery!  I hope you never have to deal with it.  But if you do, or have had in the past, or are currently dealing with it now – there is hope!  Canadian Thistle is one of the most difficult weeds we deal with here in the Treasure Valley.  I hope to open your eyes to answer the question, “Why won’t it just die!”


Canadian Thistle is a perennial weed that will continue to grow and seed and spread for several years.  It does not live and die within a season or single year.  It has a deep and wide root system.  Its creeping root system can extend up to 17 feet horizontally in the soil.  It can plunge 20 feet deep into the soil as well.  The plant itself above surface and grow up to 5 feet tall.  It is most famous for causing pain and suffering to those who walk barefoot unawares in the lawn.


What most people don’t understand with thistle is that many of the surface ‘plants’ are really connected together and are in fact one giant plant.  Let me illustrate with a picture from Purdue University:


From the picture you can see why we would consider this weed much like an iceberg.  The root system is much larger than the surface plant itself.  What you actually see in the lawn is only a small percentage of the plant.

If the size of the plant wasn’t bad enough you also have to contend with its behaviors.  Nancy Muehllehner, from a submission with Columbia University best describes why Canadian Thistle becomes so easily established: “Part of success of the thistle may also be due to its physiological advantage of being able to propagate through two methods, by seed and by cloning itself.  Introduction to new areas occurs mostly by wind-borne seed or sometimes by run-off in ditches. From there it then spreads rapidly by rhizomes (root segments). Lateral roots 3 or more feet deep spread from a fibrous taproot which then gives rise to aerial shoots which are sent up at 2 to 6 inch intervals.  This allows the thistle to dominate an available habitat and utilize all the available resources in a given area.

Not only does thistle spread easily, seeds it produces can lie dormant and still be viable for up to 20 years in ideal circumstances.  The seed is just waiting for those right conditions to germinate!

Thistle also can produce a chemical that will inhibit the growth of other plants nearby.  The more I discuss thistle, I feel like I am speaking about some mythical creature.  It can clone itself!  It hides itself!  Not everything is as it seems with this plant.  It lies in wait! And it has a superpower to stop other plants from growing!  It is villainous!

So what can you do to defeat this lawn villain!  The first thing to remember is do not pull this weed out of the ground.  It is inadvisable with a bare hand as you will get stabbed by its prickly leaves.  The roots are also designed to break and split when pulled out.  When you pull out one weed, two will grow later.  It’s much like a hydra!

Be careful when trying to dig up thistle as well.  If you leave any part behind it can turn into a new plant.  Even root pieces as little as an inch long have capability of staring a new plant.  The more you dig, the more plants you may be creating.  Little zombies coming back from the dead!



The best option when it comes to dealing with thistle is a multifaceted long term approach – it is much like a cancer in your lawn.  You have to wear it down over time with several methods until it is gone.  You want to kill thistle without killing your lawn.  The only way to do that is slowly with varying methods.  Here are some steps you need to take to help eradicate this weed:


  1. Organic options – we mentioned not pulling the weed out, however, it can be cut. Remove the whole top without disturbing the root.  In essence you will be depriving the weed of its source of food.  It cannot make more food without the green leaves.  If you cut the plant before it buds or flowers you will also help in preventing future seeds.  It will also have to expend some of its energy and resources to shoot up new leaves.  Over time it will be a losing battle if you stay determined and vigilant.
  2. Natural Predators – Cattle, sheep, and goats will help with thistle. Though this may not be a good option for your lawn…Some butterflies will feed on thistle as well.  Though I don’t know that would be a very reliable investment.  If you had a large pasture natural predators would be a great method for you.
  3. Make your lawn less inviting to thistle – Thistle likes low fertility soils, open areas, sunlight, and minimal water. Make sure your lawn has a good fertilizer regiment.  Fill in any bare areas with grass seed so the thistle doesn’t setup shop there.  If you keep your grass a little taller 3-4” instead of 2-3” it will shade the soil and low leafed plants a little better.  Don’t go crazy with the watering as you do not want to introduce disease into your lawn, but a little more water will help weaken thistle.  This step will not eradicate, but it will help weaken and even slow the spread.
  4. Weed Control – Thistle is resistant to many types of weed control, including kill all products, like ROUNDUP. Now you wouldn’t spray roundup in your lawn as it would kill the grass around the thistle as well.  I only bring it up to point out how tough it is to even kill with weed control.  It can be done though.  Resistant is not immunity.  One treatment of weed control will not do the trick.  You have to have several.  And depending on how mature the plant or plants in your lawn might be, it may take a season or even two to fully eradicate.
  5. Professional Help -If you have tried these methods it may be time for a professional – This is where many homeowners can get in over their head.  They have tried treating the weed once or even twice with no luck.  This is definitely normal, however, it is advisable to hire a licensed professional when you are dealing with multiple weed control applications on the lawn.  Even spot treating you want to be careful how much you are putting down, and how often.  You do not want to damage a lawn or cause other secondary issues.

If you are running into a thistle problem that you cannot handle, Weed Man would love to help you out.  Give us a call 208-888-9911 or  #wecareforyourlawn







Fire Yourself! Hire A Professional!

womanmoneyWelcome back to the Wonderful World of Weed Man!  This week, we finish up our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There!’ series.  It has been a great journey.  The first of many!  We wanted to finish up the series by discussing the hiring of a professional lawn care company.

If you feel that you would like better results with your lawn, or just don’t have enough time to take care of it yourself, a professional can help.  Before you hire a company there is a check list of questions you should answer to see which company would be best for you.  We of course humbly submit our Weed Man hat into the ring.  We previously posted 10 Reasons to Choose Weed Man, for just a FEW of the MYRIAD of reasons why Weed Man is the best company.  But of course, you must decide this for yourself.

Questions you should be asking when considering hiring a professional lawn care company

What are the Pros?

A Pro Will Make the Complex Simple – It makes sense to have an expert help you on your lawn.  If you do it yourself, you have to ask:

  • What do you put down?
  • Which product is best for my lawn?
  • Do I need a license for a specific product?
  • Is a product that requires a license a better option for my lawn?
  • How much do I put down?
  • Where should I NOT put product down?
  • How do I calibrate the spreader or sprayer so I don’t put too much down?

It can quickly get confusing and one can see how easily it would be to make a costly mistake.  A licensed expert will help simplify matters and do the work for you!

Regular Service – We run into many customers who previously took care of the lawn, and found that they would miss needed applications.  They did not have enough time, or just didn’t realize the lawn needed a regular application program.  With a company you will receive all the needed treatments for your lawn within a consistent program


A Healthier Lawn – a
professional service will help you achieve a level of health and beauty in your lawn you may not have thought possible.  I know from personal experience that my lawn surprises me year after year when it keeps improving.
Slow, subtle improvements show up in my lawn making it easier to maintain and more resistant to problems.  Not only is it healthier, it just looks better.



Professional Knowledge and Experience – This is HUGE!

I want to stop right here so I can stand up on my soapbox for a moment:


You’d be hard pressed to find a more knowledgeable person about lawns than someone who visits multiple lawns every day.  Day in and day out – week in and week out – month in and month out – year after year.  It takes experience and knowledge to understand how your lawn lives/dies.  That experience and knowledge can go to work for you!  Lawn technicians are vital to help diagnose issues when they occur and help prevent them in the first place.

The alternative?  Well, most DIY’s are subject to the confusing maze of misinformation on the interwebs!  Hopefully you stumbled upon a knowledgeable website such as ours.

If you are unsure of the information on the internet, you can go visit a local retailer who may or may not specialize in your lawn.  We often hear commercials for local establishments who tell you to dig up a piece of your lawn and bring it in to their store to diagnose the problem.  They mean well, and can definitely offer products to help you with your lawn.  However, the disconnect occurs when the retail establishment offers products without the necessary knowledge/experience.  This type of interaction is great for the retailer but poor for the homeowner.

Think about it:  You now have a pothole in your lawn, you brought a damaged area of your lawn into a young retail professional who may or may not really know anything about lawns.  (Are they licensed?  How many lawns have they treated professionally or personally?)  They don’t treat lawns for a living!  They do however sell things for a living!  You may end up buying a product for a damaged area in your lawn that possibly would have been resolved with a change in watering.

Had you had a professional come and look at the lawn in its environment and context you would get a correct diagnosis without the potholes, and the extra cost for a product that many times is not needed.  Not to mention the time you spent digging the hole, driving to the store, disposing of the dug up sod, cleaning of your vehicle, and application of the product (needed or not).  If you insist on digging your lawn up to seek professional lawn advice from the dog food salesman, then I have a real estate proposition to tell you about….

I will pause again to now step down from my soapbox.  I appreciate the patience while I displayed a little more candor and sarcasm than usual. 

The advantages of a professional lawn care service can go on and on, but let us continue to other questions you need to answer when considering hiring a professional service.

What are the Cons?

There really are only a few disadvantages to hiring a professional lawn care company:

Cost – some might consider a professional service to be expensive.  However, in our experience, if you do a full program by yourself, many find that the cost is similar to having a professional service do it for you.  Usually the gap in value comes when a homeowner takes care of the lawn themselves and only does one or two applications a year.

Timeliness – With some professional services you may not have perfectly timed applications or come out as quickly as you need them to.  At Weed Man Boise, we work really hard to visit existing customers’ lawns within 2 business days when they call regarding a reapplication, next application, or just need an inspection.

DIY – Some homeowners just really enjoy working on their lawn.  We can’t fault you there.  We suggest let us help you with the heavy lifting and you can focus on the more enjoyable aspects!

What type of company should I look for?

Reputable – Are they registered with the BBB?  Are they on Angie’s List?  Are they associated with organizations that promote professionalism and environmental responsibility?  Do they offer a guarantee?  Will they be around in the future?  Look for online reviews.  Take a look at their social media.  A reputable company should have a good history and a good amount of reviews.

Licensed and Insured – Does the company have technicians who are licensed to apply products on the lawn?  An applicators license is required in the State of Idaho for a professional company to apply pesticides on your lawn.  If they do not have a licensed technician, I would run the other way.

Do They Partner with Me? –  A good company will help you with suggestions on mowing and watering.  To have a great lawn, it does take a partnership between the homeowner and the lawn care company.  As a homeowner, you see your lawn every day, and have more involvement with watering and mowing.  Your company should help educate on best practices.

If you have considered or are currently considering hiring a professional lawn care service, our hope is this article will help direct you in making the right decision.  Consider firing yourself, and hiring a lawn care company.  Better yet, hire Weed Man!   For further information visit or call 208-888-9911.



The Grass IS Greener Over There!


Welcome to the wonderful world of Weed Man!  I’m Brian and I will be your guide!  We started this blog to help inform and educate our customers so they will get the most out of their lawns.  Whether you are a Weed Man customer or not, you are welcome here, and we hope you gain something by your visits.  This week I would like to overview where we are headed in the near future – lawn care tips!

It happens…you work hard on your lawn.  You spend countless hours and untold amounts of money to get the results you want to no avail.  Your neighbors lawn looks amazing and you just can’t seem to match the deep green lawn that he has.  On the other hand your other neighbor has a black thumb with a degree in growing weeds…that like to invade your lawn.

Just before you give in and give up let us offer some advice!  Sure you could hire a professional – Weed Man Boise, in particular.  We would love that!  Nevertheless, even Weed Man customers are given the expectation that achieving and maintaining a great lawn is really a partnership.  So whether you take the professional lawn guide approach or DIY approach we would like to help you have an amazing lawn.

Over the next weeks, we will be detailing how you can have an AMAZING lawn your neighbors will be joyously talking about.  (They may talk anyways, but lets be honest, nobody wants to be the black thumb homeowner who specializes in weeds.)

We have 11 tips for lawn care that every homeowner should be aware of:

  1. Mower Startup
  2. Fertilization
  3. Sprinkler Startup/Maintenance
  4. Over seeding/Lawn Repair
  5. Weed Control
  6. Watering Practices
  7. Mowing to the Season
  8. Bug Care
  9. Aerating
  10. Mulching
  11. Hire Weed Man!
  12. Addendum: I did everything you said, MY Grass ISN’T Greener Over HERE!

Each tip will have a separate posting unpacking the details of how to take advantage of each practice.  Please check back often to get updated!  We would also love to hear from you about any lawn care questions or subjects you would like discussed.  Feel free to leave a comment below and we will incorporate it in our 11 tips!